Vladimir Myshkin, Team USSR (Eric Schweikardt, SI/Getty Images)
Bad coaching decisions aren't exclusive to football. Hockey has had some real head-scratchers over the years. Pulling Vladislav Tretiak for Vladimir Myshkin with a gold medal on the line? In the middle of the Cold War? Gulp.
If I’m a fan of the Seattle Seahawks, I’d probably agree their choice to throw on second and goal was a mistake of Titanic proportions.
Given I’m neutral, I see it through a different lens. Running the ball was no guarantee of a touchdown. Marshawn Lynch, it turns out, isn’t efficient at punching it in from the one. And goal-line running plays, as this Pittsburgh Steelers fan can attest (see Jerome Bettis, 2005 AFC divisional playoffs), can have just as dire consequences.
Regardless, of your take, the play will live in infamy and Pete Carroll’s legacy will be attached to it.
But epic coaching gaffes aren’t unique to football. Here are five head-scratchers from our world that ended with massive fails.
1. Viktor Tikhonov yanks Vladislav Tretiak. The Soviets were about to take a 2-1 lead to the dressing room after the first period of the 1980 Miracle on Ice contest when a Hail Mary shot caught Tretiak off guard, he surrendered a juicy rebound and was beaten at the buzzer by Mark Johnson. Tikhonov pulled the legend in favor of the far less experienced Vladimir Myshkin and it sent panic through a Soviet squad that had beaten Team USA 10-3 two weeks earlier. Forty minutes of playing time later, with Tretiak nailed to the bench, a Miracle was born. As was a goat.
2. Marc Crawford passes over Wayne Gretzky. Canada had been stonewalled by Dominik Hasek in a 1998 Nagano Olympics semifinal against the Czechs that eventually went to a shootout. Crawford shockingly didn’t put the greatest scorer in the game’s history among his top five shooters. If Canada wins and Ray Bourque or Brendan Shanahan score, Crawford looks like a genius. Today, nobody’s calling him Einstein.
3. Too many Bruins on the ice. Don Cherry is the fall guy for bench penalty that allowed the Montreal Canadiens to roar back on Boston in Game 7 of the 1979 Stanley Cup semifinal. The B’s were seemingly in control when they were nailed for too many men on the ice with 2:34 remaining. Guy Lafleur tied the game on the power play and Montreal went on to win in overtime. The Bruins, and Grapes, were crushed.
4. Mario Tremblay embarrasses Patrick Roy. On Dec. 2, 1995, Tremblay tried to send a message to his troops that he was the boss. His Habs were getting hammered by the visiting Detroit Red Wings, trailing 5-1 after a period. But instead of mercy lifting Roy for the second, Tremblay left him in. For four more goals. Finally, at 9-1, one of the greatest netminders in hockey history was yanked and, in front of a national TV audience, delivered a message to club president Ronald Corey: he’d played his last game for Montreal. Four days later he was dealt to Colorado where he won two more Stanley Cups. Montreal hasn’t been back to the final since his departure.
5. John Tortorella rushes the Calgary dressing room. This is where a running play failed badly in hockey. A game last January between Vancouver and Calgary turned brawl-nasty and Tortorella blamed the Flames. Riding a wave of fury after the first period, the Canucks coach rushed the opponent’s dressing room and got involved in an altercation. In the process, he embarrassed himself and his club, was suspended 15 days and secured his own demise. The Canucks floundered for most of the rest of the season, while the moment seemed to galvanize a young Flames team seeking an identity.